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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


August 2022

Psalm 37: 39,40: A Shelter in the storm

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

Last Sunday was our ‘farewell’ service at the King’s church in Boston Spa. Then early on Monday morning my wife, Jilly, and I had to drive into Leeds, to St. James’ Hospital, where she had a consultation to have some lumps checked. Thankfully, everything was fine. I can’t say we went without any apprehension, but the sense of being carried on a bed of prayers, and of being in the Lord’s mighty Hand whatever, was an undergirding reality.

That morning we ‘happened’ to read this prayer from F.B.Meyer’s ‘Daily Prayers’:

”When the storms are high,

Lord Jesus may I feel you

near; as when you came through

and across the storm-swept

waves, saying, ‘It is I. Be not afraid.’ ”

I noticed that yesterday’s prayer for the day continued the theme:

”O my Refuge, outside of you

the waves are high and the

winds fierce, but in you I have haven,

protection, and peace. You are my

pavilion, my refuge, my strong tower,

the house of my defence, my shield,

and my great reward.”

Psalm 37:30,31: Heart and mouth

The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,

    and their tongues speak what is just.

31 The law of their God is in their hearts;

    their feet do not slip.

Before moving on from Psalm 37, I want to highlight a couple of shorter sections within the larger reading we looked at yesterday. Here’s the first:

It seems to me that the Bible frequently emphasises the link between heart and mouth. Jesus taught that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. I don’t know about you, but I want to so hide God’s Word in my heart that its wisdom flows out of me, whether in conversation or preaching or teaching. His Word is so powerful that the more our words are in alignment with it, the more effective they are likely to be.

In Isaiah 50:4 ‘the Servant of the Lord’ says:

The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

My prayer today is that God’s Word may be in my heart so that it may also be in my mouth, and thereby a means of blessing to those who need to receive it. Will you join me in this request?

 (See Psalm 1:1-3; 40:8; 119:9-16; Deut.6:6).

Psalm 37:27-40: The great divide

I haven’t included the remaining text of the psalm today. It is rather a long section. But please do read it.

What this psalm does show clearly is that there is a dividing line running through the world, and on one side there are “the righteous” (those brought into a right relationship with God and who are therefore seeking to live right) and on the other “the wicked.” No one reading Psalm 37 with eyes wide open would want to stay on the “wicked” side of the line. For although these people may often seem to do well in life, and regularly the godly suffer at their hands, it is only for a short time. Ultimately, all will be well with those who fear God, but not so for those who reject Him. So note, at the beginning of today’s section, the call for repentance in verses 27, 28 – a call to get onto the right side of the dividing line. Again, we are encouraged to take the long view.

In his book, ‘In Christ alone’, Sinclair Ferguson refers to Peter’s words about Christ leaving us an “example” that we might follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:18-21). He says, ‘The word “example” here (hupogrammos) is very evocative. It was used of the copper-plate handwriting of the teacher that was to be imitated by the pupil. Jesus has written out the vocabulary of Christian living for us; we are to copy it on the pages of the autobiography we are writing. Some words are not easy to learn – especially these ones: p-e-r-s-e-c-u-t-i-o-n and s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g. But they are key words if the name of Jesus is to be legible in our lives’ (p.203).

Psalm 37 presents a world-view that will pertain until Jesus returns to turn the tables. Persecution is the lot of masses of believers across the world today. It has been the case throughout history, and it is the norm to be expected. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture.

I saw Wicked bloated like a toad,

    croaking pretentious nonsense.

The next time I looked there was nothing—

    a punctured bladder, vapid and limp (35,36 ‘The Message’).

In the end, all shall be well.

PRAYER: Lord God, today I pause to think about, and pray for, all my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Encourage them with your love, and fill them with hope. Thank you that rampaging evil will not have the final word.

Psalm 37:23,24: The grip of grace

The Lord makes firm the steps

    of the one who delights in him;

24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

I don’t know about you, but I have a picture in my mind of a toddler who is just learning to walk. She ‘stumbles’ often, her rather wobbly legs giving way beneath her, but she does not ‘fall’ and hurt herself because her daddy is holding tightly to her hand. He can feel her unsteadiness and use his greater strength to correct her balance. So she makes progress safely, if slowly.

Derek Kidner says that the context suggests the stumble points to material calamity rather than a moral plunge. The truth is that believers are not immune from the general sufferings common to mankind. In addition, they will face peculiar attacks because of their allegiance to God. Things can, and do, go wrong in the lives of believers. But they are upheld in the firm grip of divine grace.

The Lord can even make our steps ‘firm’ as we ‘walk through the darkest valley’ (Psalm 23:4).

PRAYER: Lord, you are my Shepherd. May I fear no evil in life’s darkest valleys, knowing that you are with me. Thank you Lord.

Psalm 37:21,22, 26: Generosity

The wicked borrow and do not repay,

    but the righteous give generously;

22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,

    but those he curses will be destroyed…

…26 They are always generous and lend freely;

    their children will be a blessing.

In the two highlighted sentences above, I see the articulation of another Biblical principle; one  perhaps most clearly expressed by Jesus in Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

In Psalm 37:21,22, it looks like “the righteous” who “give generously” are those blessed by the Lord and who “inherit the land.” They receive far more than they give. This is the experience of so many of God’s people who, with faith, give according to God’s Word. (There are lots of testimonies out there, but probably most of them cannot be fully told, because disciples are to give in secret).

    “Righteous gives and gives.

Generous gets it all in the end;

    Stingy is cut off at the pass.” (21b,22 The Message).

It is not necessarily the very wealthy who are the most generous. Some  rich people undoubtedly are, but not all. Often poorer people are more kindly and giving in their outlook. (I’m sure it’s not true of all poor people, but I believe it is often the case). I was thinking about Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

Such are the truly rich people in the world.

As “…the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “ (Acts 20:35). Everyone who steps out on this statement discovers that, although it may look like ‘water’, there is hard surface beneath their feet.

‘…a righteous man is no longer righteous when he grows selfish; he has joined the ‘men whose portion…is of the world’ (17:14; cf.49:13-20). The element of generosity in righteousness is treated more fully in psalm 112, and above all in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Further, this man’s constant giving and lending (26a) is crowned by a lasting blessing to society in the family he founds.’ (Derek Kidner).

(Thought: How, and to whom, can I show generosity today? It isn’t just about money).

Psalm 37:16-20, 25: The Lord will provide

Better the little that the righteous have

    than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,

    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,

    and their inheritance will endure for ever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither;

    in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish:

    though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,

    they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke…

25…I was young and now I am old,

    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

    or their children begging bread.

These words can hearten us, especially in the light of trying economic times. Generations of believers have been able to articulate their own testimonies, in words similar to those of the psalmist in (25). With the hindsight of years of experience, we can look back and speak of God’s faithful goodness.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).

Derek Kidner entitles  verses 12-26 The hidden help, and then he divides them up in this way:

12-15: Persecuted but not forsaken

16-20, 25: As having nothing, and yet possessing all things

21,21,26: Making many rich

23,24: Cast down, but not destroyed

He writes: ‘…the righteous man , however poor he is, has better prospects as well as a better conscience than the godless. The Gospel sayings, like those of 17-19, take full account of temporal needs (e.g. Matt.6:31ff; 19:29); and in the psalm as in the New Testament the real security and wealth lie not ‘in uncertain riches, but in the living God’ (1 Tim.6:17, AV).’

In 1990, I, and a few friends from a church in Leeds, took our first steps towards planting a Bible-believing church in the village of Boston Spa, in West Yorkshire. In those early days especially, I was inspired by biographies of various Christian leaders and missionaries, and always stirred by stories of God’s miraculous provision. For example, missionary Hudson Taylor’s dictum that ‘God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s provision’ left a deep imprint on me. In many ways, I saw that we too were involved in a missionary task. We were pioneering in a village where (to the best of our knowledge) there was no overt evangelical witness. Looking back now, from the vantage point of almost 32 years, I can say that God’s provision has been abundant, and I’m profoundly grateful.

We do not know how tough the days ahead will become. As God’s people we have to try to live as wisely and prudently as we can. For example It’s not right to amass needless debt and then say we are struggling, and expect others to bail us out. That said, if we are blessed with surplus, we should evaluate our responsibilities towards those who are in genuine need. But may we all know that even if things come to a ‘worst case scenario’, we have access to the ‘cheque book’ of God’s promises, and He will not fail or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5,6).

PRAYER: Lord, help me to not fret or fear, but trust in your promises, and live wisely and responsibly before you.

Psalm 37: 12-15: The long view

The wicked plot against the righteous

    and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

    for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword

    and bend the bow

to bring down the poor and needy,

    to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,

    and their bows will be broken.

As I read this, I have a mental picture of a bear, about to pounce on much smaller and weaker prey. But just a little way behind the bear, there are hunters with rifles, and they are going to bring him down. He is blissfully unaware of the fact.

Repeatedly, Psalm 37 encourages us to take the long view. Again and again it points to the ultimate overthrow of the wicked. Two thoughts stand out in today’s reading:

  1. Although watching the news may cause us to weep, God can ‘laugh’ (see Psalm 2:4). He does not find comedy in the bad things perpetrated on earth, but with regard to the perpetrators “he knows their day is coming” (13);
  2. Evil has a way of rebounding on those who carry it out (15). This is another related message the Bible repeats at different times and in a variety of ways. The ‘bombs’ they carry, we may say, blow up in their own faces.

‘The picture of verses 13-15 is of a defeat which the Lord sees…coming, rather than has to intervene to send. The history of the church , from Stephen and Saul to the present day, is full of such reversals.’ (Derek Kidner).

Psalm 37:7-11: Be patient

Be still before the Lord

    and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

    do not fret – it leads only to evil.

9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,

    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

    though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land

    and enjoy peace and prosperity.

As I have observed before, waiting for the Lord is an important Christian discipline (not just waiting on Him). ‘Patience’ is one of the nine ‘flavours’ of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22,23), and how greatly we need the Holy Spirit’s help in this area, because most of us are not naturally patient.

The big picture painted by this psalm is that of a topsy-turvy world in which the wicked often seem to do well, while the godly fare badly. But David assures us that if we await God’s timing, in just a “little while” (10) the scales will be balanced, and every wrong will be righted. The Lord will set everything straight: “…the meek…will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, see verse 11). The problem for us, however, is that this “little while” seems to take so long!

Of course this principle can be applied at the micro (as well as the macro) level: to trying situations where we ourselves need patience to know the next step. We’re aware that these are comparatively small matters, when compared, for example, with all the violence and injustice in the world. Nevertheless, they are big to us, and they matter in our eyes.

In his introduction to Michael Yankoski’s book, ‘Under the Overpass’, Francis Chan writes:

‘ I was warned when entering seminary that if I was not careful, a dangerous habit could form: I could learn to read the Bible and do nothing in response. I still remember our seminary president warning us that study to the neglect of action becomes easier and easier with each occurrence. We should be terrified if we have mastered the art of becoming convicted and doing nothing in response.’

Today, I don’t want to theoretically accept the truth that I need to wait on the Lord, but actually do it. I know I will need God’s grace for this, but it is possible. Will you join me? If you have done everything you know to do, and God hasn’t yet shown you the next step, let me encourage you to wait for Him to reveal it to you in His way and time. He is infinitely trustworthy.

PRAYER: Lord, I do so want to obey your Word. I know it is the only way to live. Please help me.

(P.S. Today’s reading opens with the words Be still. It includes the idea of being silent, and ‘describes calm surrender to the Lord’ (Warren Wiersbe – see also Psalm 62:5). For many years now, I have begun most days by making a cup of tea, sitting in a familiar chair, and just being quiet before God for 10-15 minutes. It has become such a grounding experience that I cannot imagine not doing it. It may not be for everyone, but I mention it because I’ve found it such a help. However you work out the truth of today’s verses, may God bless you in the pursuit)

Psalm 37:5,6: Take your case to a higher court

Commit everything you do to the Lord.

    Trust him, and he will help you.

6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,

    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. (‘New Living Translation’)

This psalm seems to paint a picture of a world in which the powerful oppress the weak, and the innocent often find themselves wrongfully accused. But there is a simple message running through the psalm that if they trust in God He will “help”, and one way or another, sooner or later, He will vindicate them. They can take their case to the Highest Court of all and will find no injustice there. As we saw recently, Jesus knew this and acted accordingly:

“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,

    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:18-23)

‘In the matter of personal reputation we may especially be content to be quiet, and leave our vindication with the Judge of all the earth. The more we fret in this case the worse for us. Our strength is to sit still. The Lord will clear the slandered. If we look to his honour, he will see to ours. It is wonderful how, when faith learns to endure calumny with composure, the filth does not defile her, but falls off like snowballs from a wall of granite. Even in the worst cases, where a good name is for awhile darkened, Providence will send a clearing like the dawning light, which shall increase until the man once censured shall be universally admired. “And thy judgment as the noonday.” No shade of reproach shall remain. The man shall be in his meridian of splendour. The darkness of his sorrow and his ill repute shall both flee away.’ C.H.Spurgeon.

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